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      U.P. manufacturer making worldwide waves

      As the formidable U.P. winter settles in, the Stormy Kromer brand is heating up.

      "Stormy Kromer is looked at from the industry as an up-and-comer," said company owner, Bob Jacquart.

      The outdoor apparel store is not new to the market. The all American handcrafted brand has been around since 1903. But when Jacquart Fabric Products took ownership in 2001, the company revamped its product line. Eighty percent of the company sales come from the Stormy Kromer hat, which have become trendier over the years.

      "When we bought Stormy Kromer, really all they made was a black and red hat. We've added colors and flowers and different styles and longer ear flaps on some hats," Jacquart added.

      Stormy Kromer's signature caps are turning heads beyond the Midwest. There are 500 dealers nationwide selling the brand, including major outdoor retailer L.L. Bean. "We're very excited to get out to the East Coast where lots of the population is," Jacquart exclaimed.

      "It just amazes me. I've been with the company for almost 10 years, so I've really got a chance to see the Kromer line grow," said company clerk, Starr Higgins.

      The company has posted a 40 percent increase in sales over last year, in part because of their expanding influence overseas. Stormy Kromer has expanded into the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia and recently picked up online sales in China. And growing success abroad can translate into economic growth at home. "People are turning back to wanting things that are made in America," Higgins explained.

      The company currently employs 155 workers, and they hope to add upon that as their brand expands.